Term Paper: Evolutionary Psychology as the Bridge Between Social Science and Christianity

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Evolutionary Psychology as the Bridge Between Social Science and Christianity

Evolutionary psychology is a new multidisciplinary field which promises to irrevocably change the traditional social sciences." (Zimmer, 1998) This report is about evolutionary psychology and its potential for bridging the gap between the social sciences and Christianity. Throughout history, there has been a constant debate between those who strongly support the social sciences and the proponents of Christianity about the origins, evolution and the purpose of human beings. Now, a new line of reasoning has been added to the mix and may entail that the basic concepts underlying Darwinism coupled with an understanding of psychology may have tilted the scales in favor of both being right. Evolutionary psychology represents a multi-disciplinary approach of science and philosophy to supposedly reveal the how and why of our needs to seek out a higher power or a supreme being with divine intervention. Evolutionary psychology also has the ability to tie man's evolutionary processes into smaller segments to show that man needs both nature and nurture in his everyday life so as to concur with the social scientists as well.

The problem for the other side, that is the social scientists, is that this process of implementing Darwinism into the forefront seemed to unravel some of the theories of nurture and culture at first and these were a large part of the basic social science argument. Evolutionary psychology helps us interpret how our family life may affect the personalities that we present to the world and also how our minds might develop or evolve and in a sense, build our social hierarchies. To really get specific, man should no longer be considered to be a creature of his cultural development -- but instead, cultural developments should be considered to the outcome of man's evolutionary needs and deeds. How ironic is it that the Christians and their notions of a superior being may have been formed as an evolutionary dictated requirement that literally helped man survive and prosper in the same way that man's inadvertent choice of monogamy for the species' ability to reproduce and grow? "Human monogamy probably solved a different adaptive function." (Zimmer 1998) Consider for example, "evolutionary psychologists remind us that males give care to their offspring in only 3% of the mammalian species: the general mammalian pattern is that the females of a species raise offspring with little or no assistance from male procreators. How did the change come about at the human level? What is at stake in the contemporary drift back to the childrearing patterns of our mammalian cousins where females provide the care and socialization?" (Browning, Couture, Franklin, and Miller-McLemore 1997, p. 68)

Evolutionary psychology can answer questions such as these but also questions like why do we as a species gravitate towards religion? In other words, evolutionary psychology just may hold that card that will reduce the ideas of the social scientists and elevate those with religious fervor. Thus, evolutionary psychology just may be a bridge between the social sciences and Christianity and that bridge may be leaning more one way than the other.

Debates

Discourses on specific relationships between societies, religious factions and their natural environments have been a persistent feature of human nature. There have been numerous writers, philosophers and thinkers that have routinely attempted to tie science, social science and religion together in some elaborate social theory. "The discussion of disciplinary history sheds light on what have often been long and intricate conflicts over the demarcation of disciplinary boundaries, in particular between the biological and social sciences. Any attempt to cross the boundary between biology and the social sciences makes visible the connections and reveals the blind spots created by these disciplinary divisions. Past history is still present in the definition of concepts, the images created by them, and, above all, in the resistance to interdisciplinary interactions. For these reasons, awareness of the sources of potential misunderstandings can help focus attention on real, rather than spurious, disagreements." (Maasen, Mitchell, Richerson, & Weingart, 1997)

The introduction of evolutionary psychology into these debates may have forced the scientists and the religious supporters to separate them selves from their work so that they may see a new offering. To their credit, many of these individuals hold complex beliefs that they use to add to this ideological argument and may even reinvent some new neo-Darwinian scientific theories. Evolutionary psychology has added a new level of understanding which may eclipse those previous debates. "If the current receptiveness to true conceptual interchange is to remain on track, it is important to understand where it went wrong in the past and, perhaps equally important, where it was on track, but somehow became sidetracked and pushed to the margins of a discipline. If we do not know what occurred in the past, we are potentially doomed to make the same mistakes as our scholarly forbearers." (Maasen, Mitchell, Richerson, & Weingart, 1997)

Evolutionary Psychology

It would seem to make sense that man needs to get a better feel for the innate purpose of the human mind. Evolutionary psychology aims to provide that understanding. Evolutionary psychology is not the same as conventional psychology which has traditionally ignored the realm of possibilities regarding the true purpose of the mind. One would think that this neglect by the traditional psychologists put them behind the eight ball when dealing with the ideas and concepts of evolution and natural selection.

The theory of evolutionary psychology and Darwinism can step in to fill this void. The question may arise: can Darwinism even be aligned with the religious factions in their debate with the social sciences. However, "a simple reading of the relationship between Darwinism and religion might lead one to the conviction that Darwinism has been a long-standing enemy of religion. In some respects, this is true, but not in all. An often lost, but still important, distinction in discussions of the relationship between science and religion is the confusion of the pertinence of religion for the material organization of the universe with the pertinence of religion for the human experience of life. This is a natural confusion, because most religions, from Taoism to Christianity, are based solidly on this conflation of microcosm and macrocosm. However, there is no a priori necessity for it." (Rose, 1998)

Darwinism and basic biology suggest that all species, including humans, have roots based on the process of natural selection. Therefore, everything man does may in fact have some evolutionary tie involved. This includes mating, eating and even believing in a particular religion. In other words, all of man's behaviors have an underlying tie to the species' need for survival. This may be seen as an enhancement of the notion that religion and the need for religion is in fact an evolutionary need that man has no choice but to fulfill. This implies that through evolutionary psychology, we can now make assumptions that religion were actually designed by our evolutionary process over the course of millions of years and it has historically represented a problem solving method for the plethora of challenges that our ancestors faced in their struggles to survive, reproduce and eventually prosper.

Social Sciences

Social sciences cover a full spectrum of beliefs and ideas. "The Standard Social Science Model's rejection of conceptual integration with the natural sciences is sustained by a false dichotomy of nature vs. nurture." (Zimmer, 1998) for example, there are some social scientists that do not believe in statistical science and some that do whole heartedly. In other words, the social sciences are technically a great many different philosophies and theories.

Thus, believing that evolutionary psychology will or can help us lean towards the religious right can not be completely accurate. There has been a steady movement towards a consensus on what methodology could lead the social scientists to some "grand theory" from the many mid-range theories that currently exist.

As early as the 19th century, social scientists attempted to apply laws or mathematical and theoretical equations to statements about human behavior. One of the first so called laws was the idea of philology whereby the social scientists tried to map sounds in languages and the inherent changes over some fixed amount of time. "It was with the work of Darwin that the descriptive version of social theory received another shock. Biology had, seemingly, resisted a basis as a mathematical study, and yet the Theory of Natural Selection and the implied idea of Genetic inheritance - later found to have been enunciated by Gregor Mendel, seemed to point in the direction of a scientific biology based, like physics and chemistry, on mathematical relationships." (Wikopedia, n.d.)

The next notions of the humanities scientists came in the way of statistical application and Freud and eventually lead to the rise of the social sciences. "Freud's theory of the functioning of the mind, and James' work on experimental psychology would have enormous impact on those that followed. Freud, in particular, created a framework which would appeal not only to those studying psychology,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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